Risk factors for the perpetration of child sexual abuse: A review and meta-analysis

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Child Abuse & Neglect (Impact Factor: 2.47). 06/2008; 32(5):529-48. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.08.005
Source: PubMed


Since the late 1980s, there has been a strong theoretical focus on psychological and social influences of perpetration of child sexual abuse. This paper presents the results of a review and meta-analysis of studies examining risk factors for perpetration of child sexual abuse published since 1990.
Eighty-nine studies published between 1990 and April of 2003 were reviewed. Risk factors were classified into one of the following six broad categories: family factors, externalizing behaviors, internalizing behaviors, social deficits, sexual problems, and attitudes/beliefs. Sex offenders against children (SOC) were compared to three comparison groups identified within the 89 studies: sex offenders who perpetrated against adults (SOA), non-sex offenders, and non-offenders with no history of criminal or sexual behavior problems.
Results for the six major categories showed that SOC were not different from SOA (all d between -.02 and .14) other than showing lower externalizing behaviors (d=-.25). Sex offenders against children were somewhat different from non-sex offenders, especially with regard to sexual problems and attitudes (d=.83 and .51). Sex offenders against children showed substantial differences from non-offenders with medium sized effects in all six major categories (d's range from .39 to .58).
Child sex offenders are different from non-sex offenders and non-offenders but not from sex offenders against adults.
This study suggests that the presence of general risk factors may lead to a variety of negative behavioral outcomes, including the perpetration of child sexual offending. Family factors were strongly related to the perpetration of child sex offending (vs. non-sexual offending or non-offending) and may be valuable intervention points for interrupting the development of child sex offending, as well as other negative behaviors. Other potential points for intervention may focus on the development of appropriate social and emotional skills that contribute to sexual offending.

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Available from: R.Karl Karl Hanson, Mar 22, 2014
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    • "Of course, these elements fall short of giving us an exact idea of the family environment in which the sex offenders lived. Other studies have found a high degree of violence among the family members of sex offenders, as well as among sex offenders' family members and the outside community— and that both are positively correlated (Seghorn, Prenky, & Boucher, 1987; Simons, Wurtele, & Durham, 2008; Stanley & Goddard, 2004; Whitaker et al., 2008). This climate of family turmoil is also described as " perverse violence, " which affects subjects by preventing them from seeing the causal relationship between their feelings and the events, with the major effect of limiting their introspective abilities (Hirigoyen, 1998). "
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    • "We have remarkably precise knowledge of certain risk factors. We now know, for example, that being sexually abused as a child is a risk factor for the onset of sexual abuse (Jespersen, Lalumière, & Seto, 2009; Whitaker et al., 2008), but that it is not a risk factor for persistence among known sexual offenders (Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). We also know that emotional congruence with children is a risk factor for child molesters, but only for those who have extrafamilial victims (McPhail, Hermann, & Nunes, 2013). "
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